Tuesday September 20th, 2016

We sat down with mixed media artist Khoa Le for a coffee date at Klasik Coffee Roasters on Mac Thi Buoi. She entered the confines of the tranquil space profusely apologetic, “Sorry, I’m late! The rain came out of nowhere!” Even in a miserable state of dampness, she instantly energized the sober setting.

Once the caffeine kicked in from her cappuccino, we began chatting about her first memories in art. She wistfully recalled a drawing made at the age of three, of a little girl commandeering a spaceship, that was tragically thrown away by her mother. Maybe the loss planted the seed for her fondness of fairy tales gone awry. Born and raised in Saigon, the bonafide city girl is a publishing house illustrator by day and by night, she retreats into her bizzaro fantasy world where the inhabitants rarely, if ever, find their happy ending. Her fantastical creations, filled with comatose girls and animal carcasses, return to the dark origins of the folk tales from which they came.

The result of long nights and early mornings tinkering with different mediums such as oil and watercolor to create uniquely textured canvases can be seen at her second solo exhibition, ‘Happy Never After’, which will be showing at Craig Thomas Gallery from June 25th up until July 20th. As opening day looms ahead, she sheds some light on her inclination for the grim and the morbid.


(On left) Formerly ‘Memory,’ Now ‘Mementos’; (On right) Deep Sleep


Hi Khoa! The first thing we’ve come to notice is your work reveals a rich imagination. What were your influences?
I find inspiration everywhere. Usually I write them down but I never sketch my ideas because I have this fear that sketching somewhat fixes the image. By listing my ideas, there’s room for expansion. It’s like pulling thread from a spool.

What’s your favorite fairytale?
The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. I have a very strong attraction to the sea. I also love Cinderella but I much prefer the version where one of the stepsister’s cuts off a part of her heel to get her foot into the slipper.

Your art is fanciful but also borderline macabre. Where does your attraction to dark, quirky characters come from?
It has a lot to do with my personality. I see myself a dark person, waaaay deep down inside(laughs). I believe you have to have a way to release what you supress. Because I’m an illustrator for children’s books, I need to be merry and colorful. I enjoy it but I also have an inner self that is expressed through my personal artwork.

The majority of your female protagonists are portrayed as damsels in distress rather than heroines. Do you see your work as anti-feminist?
I’m somewhere in the middle. You see these damsels in distress but you don’t see the prince coming to rescue them. They’re struggling and fighting for their lives, all by themselves. It’s not like they’re waiting for someone to save them. But I’m definitely not a feminazi. I don’t go all the way there. I like it when a guy pays for dates. I’m very feminine in this way but I’m not looking for a shoulder to cry on all the time.


The lovely Khoa Le


What do you enjoy most about the art community?
Growing up, I felt like an outsider. Those were tough times. But after I ended up in the art world, no matter how different you are, every person is eccentric so I really felt like I belonged. We’re all a bit crazy.

Favorite deceased artist.
Edward Gorey. He’s very underrated. His comics are very dark, with children getting killed off. While he was alive, no one really appreciated his work. To this day, people still can’t appreciate his dark sense of humor but I just love his techniques of etching and inking.

What do you listen to when you’re working?
Radiohead. My all-time favorite band.

Thanks so much for your time! Good luck on your show this Friday!


(On left) ‘Lost’; (On right) ‘The Fairest’




(On left) The Anatomy of Sadness; (On right) Plants Fin


‘Secret Mind’

The opening reception of ‘Happy Never After’ will be held on Friday, June 24th, from 6 to 9 PM at Craig Thomas Gallery (165 Calmette Street, D1).

Images: Craig Thomas Gallery
Words: Izzy Pulido
Graphics: Thanh Duong
Photos: Ivan Kamensky


source : anyarena.com